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Journals of an Insane Genius -- September 1999

Pawn shops, country music, and drive through liquor - I am in Texas again. Currently I can enjoy none of these attractions because my friend Kathy's car is stubbornly refusing to start. I'm sure it's times like these that cause my dad to question whether there was some kind of mix up at the hospital. When he was my age he basically put together a Triumph TR3 from spare parts and then drove it around for years. I, on the other hand, ran out of ideas as soon as I managed to get the hood open to confirm that internal combustion engines haven't gotten any simpler. The Houston Hobby airport has a portable battery charger for just this sort of occasion. It's basically a spare battery with the jumper cables already attached. This I can handle, soon we're on our way.

Due to a strange alignment of the planets, or more truthfully, parties, I have only had about three hours sleep during the last forty eight. This is mostly Mel's fault who, knowing that I had to wake up early and drive three hours to the Phoenix airport, kept me out until 5:30 in the morning. At one point a group of five of us ended up in the Hunter Canyon woods after midnight looking for the Blair Witch, fortunately we didn't find her.

I figure the best way to remedy this is to insist that the restaurant we eat at serve drinks. Kathy heads for Gringo's, a local favorite. The waitress recommends the red-white-and-blue margarita, but not until after asking us if we know who won the high school football game. It's homecoming night, and so far, the freshman team has spanked their opponent 75 to 3, the junior varsity won a closer game, and hopes are high for the varsity. My friend seems embarrassed because the waitress seems so stereotypical, but I think it's pretty cool. My drink arrives in a glass that's roughly the size and shape of a goldfish bowl, nearly as large as my head. My fatigue washes away. The menu has lengthy descriptions making everything sound delicious and is far too complicated for me to deal with so I ask the waitress for advice about what I should order. Kathy informs me that it's inappropriate for me to be flirting with a 21-year-old (which we know because the waitress "casually" brought it up three times in the last five minutes). I really don't know what she's talking about and try to steer clear of the subject. The food arrives and it's incredible. Since I'm in a patriotic mood I order a second drink. When the waitress brings it she leans over and tells me that she made it herself, just for me. Hmmm...

Later the next day and we're lost. Again. We're on Galveston, an island. I promised to point out here that it is a big island so being lost on it is not unheard of. Actually, if you're going to get lost, then Galveston is a pretty cool place to do it, and I'm a pretty good person to be lost with since I don't get all angry about it and freak out or anything. Kathy, on the other hand, does display some symptoms of anxiety, mostly in the form of asking me if I see the bridge at least once every thirty seconds. Twenty minutes later and having answered in the negative forty consecutive times I get a bit edgy. For the second time today she stops for directions. I don't mind this so much, however also for the second time she stops the car in the middle of the road to get them. Wait, that's not right. While she did stop in the middle of the road the first time to talk to someone mowing a lawn, this time she has pulled to the left and actually parked the car in the middle of the left hand lane, facing where the oncoming traffic would be if there was any. She hops out and asks some fishermen on the side of the road while leaving me strapped in. I think she's still angry about the waitress.

Later that night we head over to Jenna's house. Originally there was a group of people going out tonight, but Jenna was the only one that didn't punk out with some lame excuse at the last minute. She has both the biggest truck and the smallest Doberman that I have ever seen. I could park my sure-footed Plymouth Neon in the back of her pickup. Her dog could easily hide in my shoe yet he defends his territory as fiercely as a mother grizzly defends her cub. I steer clear of him.

Since we're in Houston they take me to an "engineer's bar". It's cozier than you might imagine but you can bet that it was mostly men and nobody was dancing. They do have interesting beer. I have a couple of pints of Young's Double Chocolate Stout. Excellent beer, and while I loved it on tap, I wish they would have also had bottles so that I could have added this one to my collection. We have fun trying to figure out which guys are engineers. The two guys sitting alone at the bar playing video strip poker (and losing) are a sure bet. Jenna surreptitiously points to another loner nursing his beer in the corner. "I'll bet he's one too", she says. "Nope, you'd lose that bet", I explain, "Compare how he smokes his cigarette to this guy over here. Your boy knows how to smoke. This guy is only smoking because the girls near him are. Both the cigarette and his proximity to actual females is making him nervous because he doesn't know what to do with either one - definitely an engineer's trait. Your boy is a technician. While the engineers design the circuit cards, he gets the job of wiring them together while loudly stating his belief that all engineers are overpaid idiots."

Next we wander over to "Borrowed Money", which is actually three clubs in one. To my dismay, Jenna and Kathy walk right through the rock bar without a glance. I point out that they have live music, the best kind, but they're not interested. We pause in the cowboy bar. When I was 5 years old, I really enjoyed dressing up like a cowboy. The urge vanished thirty years ago and hasn't returned. As a result, I am really out of place. Everyone else is in jeans, long sleeved western shirts, hats, and boots. Houston is ninety degrees and humid. Silly me, I wore shorts and a banana (not yellow) and white plaid sport shirt to go dancing, not that I can dance to this music anyway. They're doing some kind of "two-step" I'm told. Basically the female is in an eccentric orbit about the male, and each couple is in a more stable orbit around the center of the dance floor. The entire thing is kind of like watching people skating at a roller rink, except without the skates. There are a lot of non-dancing guys leaning on the fence that borders the dance floor. I find it amusing that the guys that are actually out dancing seem more interested in maintaining some kind of intermittent conversation with their buddies (which usually includes a big grin and a "thumbs up" on each pass) than in focusing on the girls they are dancing with. A bad strategy if I ever saw one.

Of course itís easier to criticize than it is to actually do something and my friends encourage me to attempt to pick somebody up. I explain that I didnít actually travel over a thousand miles to strike out at a bar and then become depressed and unpleasant. I could have stayed home for that. Instead we move on to the R&B club and dance for a while before heading home. Not that the evening didnít end on a romantic note. Upon our arrival home, Kathyís dog, Oscar, let me know just how much he had missed me by amorously attaching himself to my leg and working it for all he was worth. You know, there just really isnít any way to look cool after that.

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